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The Bookworm Sez - History Buff's Guide is a treasure trove for trivia lovers

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In pretty short order, you're going to do something that might be one of the most important things you'll do all year.

It surely will affect your life for the next 48 months.

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As long as you're 18 or over, a U.S. citizen, a resident of your state, legally competent, and not a convicted felon serving time, you can vote for the presidential candidate of your choice. Chances are by then, you'll have weighed the pros and cons and you'll know how candidates feel on certain issues.

But what do you know about the 43 men who've already held the position? Why not have some fun finding out? Pick up The History Buff's Guide to the Presidents by Thomas R. Flagel.

You read the news. You know what's going on in the Middle East and you probably have a few opinions about it. But did you know that another U.S. President (coincidentally, another Texan) had even more controversy with another overseas war?

Stepping back to the previous administration and a certain affair that included a blue dress, you're not surprised by Presidential dalliances. But aren't you interested to know who elicited illicit time with past Commanders-in-Chief? It doesn't matter what your definition of "it" is, it is in this book.

Depending on the outcome of current elections, we may have a First Gentleman in the White House, which will be a... well, a first. Unanimously, most historians name Eleanor Roosevelt as the most influential First Lady. Who are the others? You might be surprised.

We Americans value our freedom of speech, but just ninety years ago, that right was in question. In fact, at least twice in history, it was illegal to say anything bad about the President, and people were jailed for merely questioning the act that made it so. Find out more by reading this book.

From religious preferences (Eisenhower was Jehovah's Witness as a youngster) to family embarrassments (James Madison's stepson squandered the family fortune and left his mother nearly broke), from out-of-control debt (which rose over 4,000 percent during the Lincoln administration) to controversial elections (the 2000 election was not the worst!), this book will delight historians, current events fans, and anybody who likes small bites of trivia.

Which brings me to what I like best about this book: you don't have to read it all the way from front to back. The History Buff's Guide to the Presidents is one of those books you can browse without guilt. Jump in and read about the Top 10 Notable Pardons and Commutations. Skip ahead and find out what Mary Lincoln's son said about her in her later years. See who swam nude in the White House pool. Get information and addresses of Presidential museums and libraries. It's all in here, making this a book that's timely and fun.

If you're eagerly awaiting election; if you love history, trivia, or both; or if you just want something light and quick to read during campaign TV commercials, The History Buff's Guide to the Presidents is just the ticket.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of the Detroit Lakes Newspapers book review column, "The Bookworm Sez." Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,000 books.

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